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Deadline for choice extended to Monday

This is absolutely the last call.

Parents who need to register their children for the 2004-05 school year have 8{ more hours to visit a Family Education and Information Center _ 3420 Eighth Ave. S in St. Petersburg and 1101 Marshall St. in Clearwater _ to turn in their paperwork.

If they miss the deadline, their children will be assigned to a school that has seats after all other children have been placed.

The official deadline was Saturday, but choice officials decided to open the family centers Monday as a courtesy to parents.

Students who need to complete applications include incoming kindergarteners, children new to Pinellas County who want to attend a public school, those returning to the district from another county and those transferring from a private school.

Students entering sixth and ninth grades in the fall also need to apply if they do not qualify for extended grandfathering, or if they choose not to exercise that option.

This is also the last chance for parents who want to try for a different attendance area school for their children. But they will lose their current seat _ and their extended grandfathering privilege _ if they choose to do so.

Chronic procrastinators may be in for long waits at the family centers on Monday. Those who bring the correct documentation will have an easier time. Here's a list of what you'll need:

+ A birth certificate or other proof of birth such as a baptismal certificate, insurance policy, a Bible record with a parent's sworn statement, a passport or certificate of arrival in the United States showing the child's age, or a previous school record showing the birth date.

+ Proof of residency such as a bill for power, water, sewer, cable television or noncellular phone service.

+ The child's Social Security number, which is optional.

+ A recent report card for new students not entering kindergarten.

Not counting choice applications that were submitted in the last couple of days _ which number in the hundreds according to choice officials _ and those with parent errors that are awaiting corrections, 10,853 students have completed paperwork. They include:

+ 3,407 incoming kindergarteners.

+ 2,331 current students who will be incoming sixth-graders.

+ 2,981 current students who will be incoming ninth-graders.

+ 612 incoming sixth- or ninth-graders who are either new to Pinellas County, have been homeschooled, or have been attending private school.

+ 1,083 current students who have either moved from one attendance area to another or who are applying for a different school.

+ 439 students who will be new to the district who are not incoming kindergarteners, sixth- or ninth-graders.

The total falls far short of the 16,400 whose voices must be heard if they are to avoid district placement.

+ + +

The deadline has come and gone for applying to a career academy, magnet or fundamental school. Parents who applied before Saturday's cutoff must call the automated phone line between Dec. 1 and Dec. 10 to find out if their children got a seat or were put on a waiting list. They do not need to accept a wait list spot, but they must accept a seat if one is offered or they will lose it.

As of Friday morning, 10,657 families had applied for approximately 2,775 openings.

+ + +

First of all, choice officials say the odds of not getting any of your choices are relatively low. Last year, 77 percent of the students who went through the application process got their first choice, and only one in 10 missed out on one of their top three choices. Seven percent got none of their five choices and were assigned to seats in a school where there was room.

If you find yourself in the group of parents who get none of their choices this year, there are a few things you will need to remember. First of all, dissatisfaction with your child's school is not grounds for an appeal. The appeals process is for parents who think the district did not follow assignment guidelines when processing their applications.

Applying for a special attendance permit, which would allow your student the opportunity to attend a school in an area other than the one in which he resides, isn't an option either. SAPs are most often granted for medical or hardship cases, or to allow siblings to attend the same school.

_ You can reach Thomas C. Tobin at 893-8923 or at tobinsptimes.com. You can reach Donna Winchester at 893-8413 or at winchestersptimes.com.

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